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The Windy City Blows In (Not Out) the City of Light

You’re just going to have to wait a few more days to hear the rest of the “‘Viager’ with a View” story (and there is still plenty left to tell!), because it’s not every day that the mayors of two great cities convene to proclaim their vows to one another, or that I have a chance to witness it in the privacy of the mayor’s office.

This is the second time to have been invited to attend such an occasion. The first was almost three years ago when Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë gathered with Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington, DC and a small entourage. (Click here to read the past newsletter)

This time it was Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, the U.S.’s third largest city, to pay a visit to the Hôtel de Ville on September 11th, to study Paris’ new “Vélib” public bike program and the new Tramway.

Daley is highly regarded for his innovative, community-based programs and was noted by Time magazine as “widely viewed as the nation’s top urban executive.” His accomplishments tally tall in issues concerning education, crime and violence, environment, urban development, housing, transportation, culture, tourism, taxes, business, women and minorities. His list of awards are as long, including having been named “Municipal Leader of the Year,” “Public Official of the Year” and “Politician of the Year” by various organizations and publications. Yes, he is the eldest son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. It’s no wonder he and Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë have much to discuss, seeing as they have many of the same goals and view points.

Friend, Tom Marquardt of Design C

ollaboratives of Chicago (http://designcollaboratives.com/), when hearing the news of the meeting, wrote “We love Rich Daley!! This guy has done so much for Chicago…and then gave instructions: “Make sure you say ‘Hi’ to Rich Daley for me. Tell him you have friends in the 35th Ward/Logan Square!!”…and so I did, to members of the entourage who were taking a tour of the magnificent Hôtel de Ville with the official guide, Marie-France Bennett.

Mayor Daley’s party started off at 9 a.m. with a visit of the new Tramways on the “Maréchaux” — the ring roads around Paris, followed by a presentation of the new “Vélib” public bike system. They returned to the Hôtel de Ville for a private meeting in the mayor’s office, lasting a little more than 30 minutes. The entourage then made their way through the elaborate halls of the Hôtel de Ville together to the corner chamber where the proclamations were signed to enrich their exchanges and cooperation between the two cities.

Each mayor had a chance to say a few words, in his native language, and a translator reiterated his words in the other’s language. I captured their speeches in video on my tiny Sony Cybershot camera. Mr. Daley said everything I would have wanted to say…about the obvious passion, love and affection the current administration and its people have for Paris; how he had seen the visible improvements in the city since he last visited; how Paris, now more than ever, takes its rightful place as a global city, one with which they can both share and steal ideas to improve the quality of life for its residents; how important it is to recognize the solemn day of September 11th to realize that diversity is the strength, not the weakness of a city and how we must all work to eliminate hatred and discrimination.

With those words, the champagne cocktails were poured and canapés were served. I got a bit welled up, feeling proud to be an American, proud to be a resident of Paris, proud to have been lucky enough to have witnessed the whole scene among the people who can, so seriously, have an important impact on our lives.

I left soon after, but not without having shook Mr. Delanoë’s hand and commenting to Mayor Daley that Chicago was a great city, too, just as Paris is. That received a small cheer from some of the visiting entourage who may have enjoyed hearing American-spoken English. Upon leaving the Hôtel de Ville, I spotted one of the City Council Members of Chicago, in his suit and perfect haircut of course, riding away on one of the Vélib bikes stationed on rue Lobau!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. After the morning’s event, some of you faithful readers gathered at La Pierre du Marais for our monthly “Après Midi” gathering. Read all about it and see the pictures at /parlerparis/apresmidi.html. Mark your calendar for the next one on October 9th.

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